BOOKBLOG: Guy Jones

The Ice Garden: a beautiful story of freedom and belonging

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Jess is allergic to the sun. She lives in a world of shadows and hospitals, peeking at the other children in the playground from behind curtains. Her only friend is a boy in a coma, to whom she tells stories. One night she sneaks out to explore the empty playground she’s longed to visit, where she discovers a beautiful impossibility: a magical garden wrought of ice. But Jess isn’t alone in this fragile, in-between place…”

The Ice Garden tells the story of Jess who is allergic to the sun. She has no friends, everyone thinks she’s a bit weird as she has to protect herself from the sun – covering herself fully, wearing protective hats, staying indoors during the day. The only people she gets to talk to are the doctors at the hospital, her mum and her neighbours. Night time is her only solace, away from the burning sunshine.

Her story starts to unravel one night when she decides to go for a walk, unbeknownst to her mum, and she discovers a magical, wonder-filled Ice Garden. In this ice garden she can’t be harmed, there’s no sunlight, she’s safe (or at least she thinks she is). Whilst she’s in this new, harmless land she meets a young boy. She finally has a friend, someone to talk to, someone to play with in her newly discovered land, but as their friendship develops, things start to go awry. Jess is given a priceless gift, and must make a choice: one which could have disastrous consequences

I really enjoyed this story. Jess’ story was a really intriguing one. She is a girl constantly battling with belonging and solitude. She has this exceptionally tough choice to make. She needs to choose something for the good of others, or for herself. She’s a brave young girl, constantly looking out for others – she doesn’t want others to have to suffer the way she does. There’s a thread throughout the book of Jess, who writes stories to entertain herself through her loneliness, reading her stories to another young man who is poorly in the hospital. This ends up being an important part and I loved that. It showed Jess the power her stories have and the solace they provide for her, and others. 

I can’t wait to take this to school as I think the children will love this as much as I did. The writing is brilliant, there’s some gorgeous descriptions and plenty of things to think about throughout. Would you leave your house in the night time? Would you make the same decision Jess did? Are you the kind of person who would risk everything to better yourself? 

Thank you so much to the publishers, Chicken House, for sending me a copy! I’ll be passing it onto my kids! 

Would you like to visit an ice garden?
How would you feel if you met a boy made of ice?
How would you cope if you had Jess’ condition?

Talk to me on twitter. Comment on this post. Send me a postcard. Send me a pigeon. I’d love to talk! 

S x

 

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BOOKBLOG: Katie and Kevin Tsang

Sam Wu Is Not Afraid of Ghosts: fun, fearless (definitely) and Fang-tastic

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“Brilliantly funny new series about the bravest scaredy-cat in the world

Sam Wu is NOT a scaredy-cat (except he is). When a trip to the Space Museum goes terrifyingly wrong, Sam begins a mission to prove to the school bully, and all of his friends, that he is a fearless space adventurer. A truly laugh-out-loud, voice-led and madcap story of ghost hunting, snakes and mischievous pet cats called Butterbutt”

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I absolutely adored Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts. There’s so much fun and lots of laughter to be had. There were lots of times where I caught myself laughing out loud. It’s definitely one that will keep kids entertained. I can’t wait to take it into school and see what my kids think! I was entertained from the very first page to the end. Sam has some brilliant friends, who react to many of the situations, as children definitely would. We all need friends like Zoe and Bernard – they’re brilliant. Sam’s little sister Lucy is also brilliant. She might be my favourite!

Sam Wu deals with fears in a fun and relatable way. I loved the way Sam was definitely (not) afraid of things but puts on a brave face, a brave front, to make it seem like he doesn’t. I feel like, even as adults, that’s very much what we as people do! Everyone’s got a fear. Everyone’s scared of something (except Sam Wu). Fear, and dealing with fear, would be a great talking point after reading this with kids. 

I loved the way that different cultures were interspersed into this book. Sam’s family are Chinese and Katie and Kevin so seamlessly integrate lots of different elements of Chinese culture into this book. There’s a very funny scene with Zoe and Bernard coming over for a meal that definitely made me chuckle. 

Sam Wu is a brilliantly fun book, which would be perfect for kids who are just finding their feet with chapter books. The pages are beautifully illustrated by Nathan Reed. The illustrations are some of my favourite bits! There’s some brilliant foot notes and side notes that keep the eye busy! The pages are gorgeous and there’s enough words to keep the mind going.

I’m very excited for more from Kevin and Katie. Katie is the author of one of my favourite books, Wing Jones, so when I found out she was writing a MG book I was THRILLED. I now want more Sam Wu in my life NOW. 

What are you DEFINITELY NOT afraid of?
Like Sam Wu, are you definitely not afraid of ghosts?

Let me know on twitter or in the comments the things you definitely not afraid of! 

Thank you so much to Siobhan from Egmont for sending me a copy of this brilliant book! I shall be passing it on to the school library! 

S x

Happiness is…

A smile from a friend. A bunch of flowers. Tom Fletcher’s wedding speech. Watching videos of friends. The twiglets. Sunshine. Books. Texts from friends. Chocolate. Eating jellies. A cup of a tea on a cold morning. Going back to school. Seeing my friends. Knowing the beach is only half an hour away. Derek. Being able to go into a book shop and just look. Following my dream. Going to the cinema with friends. Blogging. Reading. Books. A comfy bed. Olympic medals (not my own, obvs). Warm blankets on cold days. Authors. The strength of the human spirit. People supporting each other. SundayYA. Working with the most amazing bunch of people. Twitter friends. Tweacher friends. More books. Starbucks Sundays. Even more books. Knowing I have an amazing support system for when I need it most. Friends. Always friends.

S4S – favourite partners

Sunday again? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? 

I’m sure someone keeps stealing my weekends *crying face*

Here we are… in the world of #SixforSunday with a pretty vague prompt today. I’m interested to see how everyone else does their posts! Today’s prompt is:

Favourite partners

I’ve gone with a mixture of romantic partners and partners in crime, best friends. 

  1. Park (Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell)
    I just remember falling in love with him entirely. I think he’s a right sweetheart.
  2. Rhys (A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard)
    Again, another complete winner of a boy. He’s adorable and I was a bit smitten with him.
  3. Jin (Rebel of the Sands trilogy – Alwyn Hamilton)
    GUYS. I LOVE HIM. He is my total fictional crush. I couldn’t do this list without him. He’s handsome, witty, can fight, romantic. I love him.
  4. Katie (The Fandom – Anna Day)
    I could’ve chosen ANY of Violet’s friends, but sweary Katie is BRILLIANT.
  5. Shehzad (Rebel of the Sands trilogy – Alwyn Hamilton)
    I love her. She’s badass. She’s not afraid of anything. She’s just excellent. I wish I was half as brilliant as her.
  6. The Spinster club girls (Holly Bourne)
    These girls are all brilliant. They shout about the important things. They support each other. We should all have friends like them!

I’m a sucker for romance and a sucker for a brilliant friendship. There were so many others who could’ve featured in today’s #SixforSunday post. I could’ve gone on for hours! 

Remember to share your favourite partners (romantic or not) with me using the hashtag #SixforSunday on twitter! I can’t wait to see who you’ve all chosen! 

S x

#FeminismFriday – #SundayYA

Hello!

We come again to another Friday in February, therefore another #FeminismFebruary post. Today, I’m talking about one of my favourite things (started by one of my favourite humans in the world) that twitter has ever introduced me to. Today’s post is dedicated to:

#SundayYA

For those of you who are unaware: #SundayYA happens from 6pm-7pm on a Sunday night and is a chance for bookish folk to talk about books. There’s always a theme, or a featured author. It’s ran and organised brilliantly by one of my best friends in the world, Rachel, (@_sectumsemprah on twitter) who makes the chats inclusive and interesting. So anyway… 

5 reasons why I love #SundayYA

  1. It’s created for me a real community 
    I’ve had the chance to reach so many incredible new bloggers and authors because of #SundayYA. It’s an incredible chance to talk to people I may never speak to at any other time. We are all just bookish folk who are there to talk about a specific book/fangirl over a particular author and it’s brilliant. 
  2. There’s an magnificent community of incredible women
    Now #SundayYA does not exclude the menfolk, in fact there are a few fellas who join in on Sundays, but there are so many incredible women who join in #SundayYA that it always makes me so happy. We’re women, supporting each other. There’s no competition, it’s all supportive – that’s the community #SundayYA has created. The people who join in with #SundayYA are such a varied group of brilliant women – women who teach, who work in publishing, booksellers, students. So many excellent women from so many walks of life. 
  3. The sheer amount of friendships I’ve built because of Sunday chats
    Some of my best friends in the whole world I have because of #SundayYA. I’ve made so many brilliant friendships, with people who I never would’ve met because of #SundayYA and I am so grateful. It’s so lovely when you see the same people popping up every week and there are real friendships, real conversations happening. Lots of conversations happen outside of #SundayYA too!
  4. The amount of authors and books I’ve been introduced to…
    OK so this one isn’t great for my bank balance BUT it is GREAT for my life. The sheer amount of recommendations I leave EVERY Sunday with is ridiculous. The incredible authors I have been introduced to because of chats with them, or chats where people have recommended them, is incredible. It’s a community of people reading and recommending books to each other. There’s always someone who can recommend a similar author, or a complementary book. We’re like a community of booksellers, who just read. 
  5. Rachel. The lady herself.
    So Rachel, #SundayYA‘s creator, is one of the most amazing people I know. She’s funny, generous, brilliant and one of the best people in my life. She loves #SundayYA and her dedication to it makes me so happy. I could talk about how much I love her for hours, and am happy to if someone wants to listen. If you’re not already following her, you should be. She’s smart, funny and creative. 

Now for a special feature… I asked some of my fellow #SundayYA ladies to help me with this post and here’s why they love #SundayYA:

Kelly, @kellysrambles
“To me, #SundayYA means friendship. It means discovering like minded souls and bookish best friends. It has helped me to carve my own little corner in the UKYA bookish community in Twitter where I am lucky to be surrounded by some of the most amazing people. Little did I know when I first took part in a #SundayYA readathon that I would end up with 5 of the best friends a girl could wish for and I am so grateful to Rachel for making that happen. Whether it’s bookish fangirling or life advice, #SundayYA has give me more than I ever thought it would: true friendship.” 

Cora, @Corazzz
#SundayYA is more than just a chat to me. It’s a safe little corner in the community where I know everyone is kind and considerate. Rachel does the most amazing job and puts so much work into each chat. So much thought goes into each theme, each question asked to authors or the community. I love being a part of something, somewhere my voice can be heard and I can speak to people with the same passion, make new friends, be a part of something. Taking part brings me joy and makes me genuinely happy, it’s part of my self care routine, #SundayYA and a cup of tea.”

Rosie, @rosiefreckle
“I love #SundayYA because it feels like me and all my bookish buddies are all meeting in a coffee shop and chatting books. It made me feel more involved in the community and it makes Sunday evenings infinitely better.”

Aoife, @PrettyPPD
“I spend the whole week looking forward to #SundayYA. Not only has it intorduced me to some amazing books I’d never have picked up otherwise, the people who always turn up too are so warm and friendly. It’s my favourite book community.”

Jess, @JessikahHope
“#SundayYA is full of wonderful, friendly people who make you feel less alone when you’re completely fangirling over your new favourite book!”

Amy, @YAundermyskin
“I love #SundayYA because it’s a welcoming community of people who love books as much as I do.”

Donna, @donnamk79
“I love #SundayYA because it lets me chat about books I love with other members of the community – and it really does make us a community.”

S xx

BOOK BLOG: Stewart Foster

All The Things That Could Go Wrong: a gripping and emotive story of struggle and ultimately acceptance

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Dan is angry. Nothing has been the same since his big brother left, and he’s taking it out on the nearest and weakest target: Alex.
Alex is struggling. His severe OCD makes it hard for him to leave the house, especially when Dan and his gang are waiting for him at school…
When the two boys’ mums arrange for them to meet out of school and finish building the raft that Dan started with his brother, it seems like the end of the world. But could it be the start of an unlikely friendship?”

I’d seen this floating around on Twitter from my teacher pals, and was curious about it so the lovely publishers kindly sent me a review copy. 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew it was going to be good. I knew it would make an impression on me, but I was not expecting it to have SUCH a big impression on me. This book is important. This book should be in EVERY classroom. For kids in KS2, upwards, this is a MUST have. 

There’s something very gripping about this book. The character perspectives are my favourite things. You learn so much about both boys throughout the book from their chapters. The book is split into dual perspectives – you get a chapter from Dan and then a chapter from Alex. Their stories are very different but they’re both looking for the same things – acceptance, happiness, friendship.
Dan: the bully, dealing with an upheaval in his home life, acting out at school.
Alex: the bullied, lacking in friends, suffering from OCD, struggling to tell anyone about the bullying, dealing with his parents’ views of his OCD.
I found Dan REALLY hard to like in the beginning – his actions made him unlikeable for me. I couldn’t get round to this idea of liking the school bully. Him and his cronies just made me cross. However, as the book goes on, there’s glimmers of him (the real him) coming out and that’s when I realised that there’s more to Dan than meets the eye. I liked Alex from the beginning. I think that’s what’s expected. I think you’re meant to like him and feel a bit of empathy for him. That doesn’t mean that his character doesn’t go through an incredible arc because he does. There’s moments where he forgets all of his concerns because there’s more important things – those moments of growth were incredible. 

The message this book delivers is SO important. It delivers an incredibly powerful message of friendship; the perils of being a bully; acceptance of people for who they are; showing compassion; being the person you’re meant to be, not the person your “friends” want you to be. (Side note: I hate calling books important, I think all books are important because they all tell a story and give a perspective)

Stories are necessary. Stories teach children about all sorts. This is a book I will be completely and utterly using to discuss empathy, compassion and doing what’s right. Children need to be given the language of empathy. Children need to hear stories of all kinds of people. This one is special. I am so glad I came across it. 

I genuinely can not praise this book enough. I will for sure be keeping an eye on Stewart Foster books. I think he’s brilliant. 

Have you read All The Things That Could Go Wrong?
Do you have a favourite story to use when discussing empathy?

Once again a massive thank you to the publisher for sending me this book. It is an incredible book. 

S x

February bujo!

Welcome to February.
I realise we are now 14 days in so I’m 2 weeks too late to say that, but never mind! Here goes…

I have a post coming up to show you January’s final bullet journal as I actually managed to journal for the entire month and I’m pretty chuffed with the finished result! Thank you so much for the lovely comments about my bullet journal, you’re all brilliant humans.

img_1426February’s title page makes me happy – my stars aren’t great, nor is the lettering BUT it’s pretty colours and that’s always happy news!

Next up we have a February dates list – a new page for me. I’m not sure if it’s handy at all or whether I’m just not interesting enough to have plans ha! There’s a few more things on now since I took the pictures but still I’m not sure if it requires a whole page. We’ll see. The other page is my trusty book post page. This is very handy for keeping track of my book post and reminds me to email publishers to say thanks! Some months there’s more post than page and that’s exceptionally lovely of them!

Since it’s February, yes I went for a very LITERAL monthly mood tracker. Sue me. I like my little hearts: they’re cute. I’m definitely managing to sort out the moods that I feel the most often, so my colours are becoming staple. (I’ve decided to take out lazy and swap it for demotivated… because that’s a kinder word) The other side is my grateful page (28 is a HORRIBLE number to have to split 180 by FYI, remind me of this next February if I decide to do this!) I’ve not thought of a quote for February’s page, so if you’ve got one I could put in the middle then please holler! 

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The final pages are my weekly pages. Here is an example of my first week’s page. Daily tracking of lessons I’m teaching, a to do list, my trusty weekly tracker, steps and sleep (which only work when my Fitbit is working!) and then a box for notes/rants/ideas/worries etc. I think this weekly layout is becoming somewhat of a staple for me. I’m quite into it. I generally do this on a Sunday night and fill in what I know for the week ahead! 

And there we go! Come back next week to find out how I got on with January’s bullet journal! 

What staple pages do you have?
What do you have that I’m missing?
What’s your favourite thing to include in your bujo?

Let’s talk! I love talking bullet journals. Don’t forget to check out my brillint Kelly’s posts – Kelly’s most recent bujo post.

S x

BOOK BLOG: Alwyn Hamilton

Hero at the Fall: a fitting end to a trilogy I adored

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“When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.”

Hello, my name is Steph and I ABSOLUTELY adore the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. If you are unware of this trilogy, it follows the incredible Amani (a gunslinging, sandcontroller) who ends up part of an excellent army of rebels trying to overthrow the cruel Sultan. Over book 1 and 2, Amani ends up part of the incredible band of merry men (she’s like a modern day female, brilliant Robin Hood) and they’re just MAGNIFICENT. I’d totally recomment you read this trilogy – there’s sand, magic, brilliant friendships and peril. SO MUCH PERIL. (See my reviews: Rebel of the Sands review and Traitor to the Throne review)

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Anyway, I’m here to talk you through my sheer joy and UTTER SADNESS that this trilogy is over. That’s how I feel: it’s a bittersweet time of my life. I have ADORED this trilogy and reading Hero just proved to me why this series is special. The storytelling, the characters, to magic, the mythical elements, Jin (be still my heart), the progression of the characters, the closure. It’s just wonderful. Alwyn is an incredible author and I’m excited to see what’s coming next!

One of the things that hit the hardest about this book was the sense of family and belonging that Amani gets throughout. The gang get back together and you see her in her element with all the people around her she loves. The characters, both new and old, blew me away at times. Their actions speak volumes. The new characters add a whole new level of brilliance for me. These books wouldn’t be as massive a hit for me if it weren’t for such an excellent bunch of characters. They balance each other out. They complement each other. There’s moments throughout of reminding me why I fell in love with them all individually, but collectively too. They fight for each other; the fight WITH each other but they stick together and fight for the same brilliant cause. 

Another of the things that’s been prevalent throughout the whole series is the myths and fairytales beautifully woven into the plot. I am a MASSIVE fan of this. I think it adds intrigue and interest to books, it gives them a history that you couldn’t have without them. Hero features, among others, 2 massive new myths which both are incredible. There’s a remarkable parallel between what the characters are going through now and what the story tells of. Amani and Jin have their own moment of life imitating art which absolutely BROKE MY HEART and put it back together again. (More on Jin later).

As I read through, there was an absolute need to read more and know how things were going to end. I wanted to see where these characters were going to end up, how their stories ended… and I was SO satisfied with the ending. The arcs and progressions of these characters is something I adore. Amani herself goes on quite an important journey of accepting herself, accepting her varying position in the group, and her battle with some tricky decisions was a brilliant plot line to watch unfold. 

You get the chance to revisit locations from book 1 and 2 in Hero and it made my heart so happy. Revisiting Dustwalk and the location of the camp in particular gave me flashbacks, reminding me of books 1 and 2. It was gorgeous to have those nods to the past 2 books, whilst still bringing in brand new locations, characters and plot. There’s a satisfying amount of loose ends tied up by the end of Hero, which for me makes me happy. There’s nothing worse than knowing a trilogy is ending and having a whole load of unanswered questions. 

Jin. Oh Jin. *heart eyes* I love him. I think all of my reviews of this trilogy have had their own Jin paragraphs. I’d like my own Jin. He’s such a brilliant human. I adore him. I adore his and Amani’s relationship. They’re just lovely. They balance each other out so much. He’s smooth and mellow, a total opposite to Amani, who can be like a tight knot at times. I’m glad they got the ending they did. They deserve it. I am all for a happy ending (it’s not without its rollercoaster though).

I need to take a moment here to mention my sheer appreciation for the cover (and the covers of the trilogy). They are EXCEPTIONAL and look brilliant together. I am a sucker for some gold.

Where does Hero stand on the crying front? (I know you all know I’m a crier) I CRIED SO MUCH. I reckon I cried for the last 100 pages or so. SO MANY TEARS WERE SHED. It’s SO SO SO WORTH IT THOUGH. There’s scenes that deserve the tears; some were heartbroken tears; some were disbelief tears; some of the tears were sadness at saying goodbye. 

So if you hadn’t guessed from this review… I really quite LOVED Hero at the Fall and would ABSOLUTELY recommend the whole trilogy. Please go out and buy them, if you haven’t already. SO WORTH IT.

Have you read Hero at the Fall?
Do you think you’d be as badass as Amani?
DO YOU LOVE JIN TOO OMG?

Talk to me about this book, this trilogy, Jin, magic, WHATEVER. Just talk to me. This book, this trilogy, these characters are EXCELLENT and deserve all of the praise they get. Just read them!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Eye of the North

Hello!

Welcome to my stop on The Eye of the North blog tour!

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“When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, she is kidnapped by the villainous Doctor Siegfried Bauer, who is bound for the ice fields of Greenland. There he hopes to summon a mystical creature from the depths of the ancient glaciers, a creature said to be so powerful that whoever controls it can control the world. 

Unfortunately, Bauer isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The North Witch has laid claim to the mythical beast, too, and Emmeline along with a scrappy stowaway named Thing may be the only one with the power to save the world as we know it. Can Emmeline face one of the greatest legends of all time and live to tell the tale?”

The Eye of the North is an incredible adventure-filled tale of Emmeline and her friend Thing, who have to go and save Emmeline’s parents. There’s baddiesgoodies, boat rides, Paris, peril, capture, mysterious creatures, power hungry doctors and incredibly fun characters. This book is one of those that my kids love – the proof hasn’t stayed on the shelf in school for long! 

Today, the amazing humans at Stripes have given one lucky person the chance to win a copy! WOOHOO.  

For a chance to win, make sure you’re following me on twitter and RT the tweet this blog post is mentioned in! Go give @SJOHart and @StripesBooks a follow too – they’re brilliant! The giveaway closes on February 23rd, winner will be contacted on February 24th

Good luck!

Keep an eye out for my full review of Eye of the North coming in the next week or so! While you wait, go check out the rest of the amazing blogs on the blog tour! 

S xx

S4S – Favourite fictional animals

Hello, it’s Sunday again!

Another Sunday means another #SixforSunday. 

I’d like to take a little minute to thank everyone for joining in with my little #SixforSunday meme! If you’ve joined in forever, once or twice, or are thinking about joining in, I am super thankful. You’re all brilliant!

Today’s prompt is:

Favourite ficitonal animals

I thought this would be easier than it actually was, but I managed 6 eventually!

  1. Aslan (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)
    I couldn’t NOT include Aslan.
  2. Mr Fox (Fantastic Mr. Fox)
  3. Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web)
  4. Robin Hood (let’s go with Disney’s Robin Hood)
  5. The Gruffalo (he’s technically an animal, right?)
  6. Coco (Sky Chasers)

There we go! 6 literary animals that I adore. I have a particular soft spot for Disney’s Robin Hood and Aslan. 

Share your #SixforSunday with me! Link me to your blog! I’m loving all of the #SixforSunday posts! 

S x